How I Made the Most of a Store Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus

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Every credit card win is worth celebrating, even the small ones!

Celebrating our wins -- no matter how big or how small -- is always important, but perhaps never more so than when the rest of the world is in chaos. With the last year being, well, what it was, I didn't open a lot of fancy new travel cards, nor did I cash in my points or miles for a social-media-worthy trip.

However, I did have a somewhat small, albeit significant, credit card win recently when I signed up for the Kohl's Charge Card. Yes, I know, I'm not normally a big advocate of store credit cards, but they do make sense in some cases. Here's why I applied for a store card and how I managed to get some pretty solid savings out of it.

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I shop at Kohl's on the regular

The main reason I was interested in the Kohl's Charge Card to begin with is that I shop at Kohl's fairly regularly. My family likes its clothing products, and it often has some good sales on its household items that make it cheaper than Amazon or Walmart.

Over the course of a year, we probably make at least half a dozen trips to Kohl's (or online purchases, what with the pandemic and all). This could be a good enough reason to get the retailer's credit card, as it offers pretty decent discounts -- often up to 30% -- for cardholders roughly once a month.

But what really led me to apply for the card was (as is often the case) the sign-up bonus. In this case, the bonus came in the form of a 35% discount off your first Kohl's Charge Card purchase after approval.

Months of saving went into one big buy

For many months, my family set aside some savings to replace a number of household items that were ready for an upgrade. We needed new pillows for the bed; our toaster oven needed an upgrade. All in all, there were at least half a dozen semi-major purchases that we wanted to make.

Right after Christmas, many of the items we'd been eyeballing on the Kohl's website happened to go on sale at the same time. After checking that the prices were indeed lower than -- or, at least, competitive with -- what we'd find elsewhere, we decided it was time to buy.

So, I loaded up my digital cart (while trying not to let the total shock me). I applied the smallish store coupon open to every Kohl's shopper at the time (why leave any savings on the table?) and finally clicked the "Apply" button for the Kohl's Charge Card.

In contrast to a lot of cards, the Kohl's application doesn't just have you apply right away. Instead, it takes you through a basic pre-qualification first. Essentially, the pre-qualification process for a credit card involves a soft credit inquiry that sort of estimates your likelihood of being approved. It's not a guarantee, but it's a good way to gauge your chances.

Once I was pre-qualified, I was offered a chance to actually apply for the card. The application was pretty standard (name, address, Social Security number, income, etc.). Within a minute, I was approved! The credit line was laughably small -- less than $1,000 -- but I expected nothing else from a store credit card.

As soon as I was approved, Kohl's gave me a temporary card number that I could use to make my purchase. And, just as important, they gave me the discount code for my 35% off.

Over $100 in savings isn't a bad haul

Applying my 35% discount code knocked more than $100 off my purchase total. For a store card, that's a pretty good sign-up bonus. Sure, it's not the largest bonus you can earn -- even for a card with no annual fee, I could have found bigger bonuses in the regular credit card market.

But that discount went a long way toward making our household upgrades affordable. And I didn't have to wait six weeks for points to post or cash back to get applied to my account. The discount was taken off my total right away, reducing how much I had to pay in the first place.

Is it the biggest credit card win I've had in my life? Certainly not. Is it still worth celebrating? Absolutely!

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